Lexus has unveiled the 2021 IS sedan, which debuts with comprehensive revisions to the current platform in order to provide a sharper driving experience, along with a redesigned exterior that brings the Japanese marque’s 3 Series and C-Class contender closer visual ties with its rangemates.

The Japanese marque aimed for an “aggressive design by way of a wide and low stance”, according to chief designer Kenichi Hirai, rendered by slim headlamps using compact and lightweight light units, which are complemented by lowered side character lines which carry through to the lower section of the rear end.

The face of the new IS features a new design spindle grille that employs a three-dimensional polyhedral structure where the spindle motif combines with a mesh pattern. The 2021 IS has grown in size over its predecessor, measuring 4,710 mm long, 1,840 mm wide, 1,435 mm tall with a 2,800 mm wheelbase. This makes it 30 mm longer, 30 mm wider and 5 mm taller than before, whereas wheelbase is unchanged.

The petrol-powered line-up begins with the rear-wheel-drive IS 300, powered by a 2.0 litre turbocharged and intercooled inline-four engine that produces 241 hp and 350 Nm of torque between 1,650 rpm and 4,400 rpm, featuring the VVTi-W system that enables switching between Otto and Atkinson combustion cycles. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission with G-force artificial intelligence (G-AI), which observes various parameters to determine the ideal gear selection.

The IS 300 is also available with all-wheel-drive, though despite the identical nameplate, this variant is powered by a 3.5 litre naturally aspirated V6 producing 260 hp and 320 Nm of torque. All-wheel-drive versions of the new IS use a six-speed automatic gearbox, and the AWD system automatically varies the torque split; this deploys 70% to the rear wheels in dry conditions, and sends up to 50% to the front wheels when required.

Topping the launch line-up of engines for the 2021 IS is the company’s 3.5 litre naturally aspirated V6 in the IS 350, which outputs 311 hp and 380 Nm of torque. The IS 350 is available in RWD and AWD versions, and like the IS 300, employs the eight-speed auto for the rear-driven model while the six-speeder is used for the AWD version. Of the two IS 350 variants, the RWD version does 0-96 km/h in 5.6 seconds, and the AWD does the same in 5.7 seconds.

In order to have an even more steadfast base to work with, the IS bodyshell received rigidity enhancements such as reinforced radiator side supports, additional front-side-member weld points, and optimised reinforcement structures from the C-pillars to the sides of the roof. This aids not just in reducing noise and vibration, but also improves ride comfort and drive performance thanks to better steering responses, says Lexus.

Revisions to the IS suspension included a reduction in unsprung weight, which was achieved through using coil springs that are 20% lighter than the outgoing model’s, while new control arms made of forged aluminium instead of the previous steel components yielded an 18% weight saving. A new material used for the revised stabiliser bars contributed a 17% weight reduction.

Meanwhile, the 2021 IS gets new swing-valve dampers with ultra-low-velocity valves in their pistons which aim to manage oil flow in response to the most minor of road irregularities, says Lexus. This in turn offers improved responses in order to apply appropriate damping forces on all road surfaces for a more consistent ride, while new bump stops further aid ride comfort, the automaker added.

The Dynamic Handling Package features 19-inch forged alloy wheels, Torsen LSD, additional drive modes and carbon-fibre trim

The most powerful IS 350 can be specified in F Sport trim, which includes unique front and rear bumpers, grille surround, rear bootlid spoiler and rocker panels. Rolling stock is comprised of 19-inch F Sport wheels which are wider for the rear axle, with 265/35R19 tyres, and the F Sport additionally gets a cool air intake with sound generator along with an F Sport exhaust and rear diffuser.

For sharper responses, F Sport versions can additionally be specified with a dynamic handling package (DHP) that includes adaptive variable suspension, as well as lightweight 19-inch forged alloy BBS wheels in matte black which save approximately 2 kg per wheel over the regular 19-inch F Sport wheel.

DHP-equipped rear-drive F Sport models also get fitted with a Torsen limited-slip differential for enhanced traction as well as straight-line stability, says Lexus. DHP-equipped cars gain a Sport S+ drive mode for more performance-oriented engine and transmission mapping, while also adjusting the level of power steering assistance and suspension damping for sportier handling. Here, the DHP also adds a Custom mode which allows individual selection of powertrain, chassis and air-conditioning mode combinations.

Safety kit in the 2021 IS is joined by the LSS+ 2.5 iteration of the Lexus Safety System+, here comprised of Pre-Collision System (PCS) which includes Frontal Collision Warning (FCW), Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), Pedestrian Detection and Bicyclist Detection, and features enhanced single-lens camera and millimeter-wave radar elements for an expanded response range.

This way, the system can detect not just the vehicle ahead of the car, but also a preceding cyclist in daytime, as well as a preceding pedestrian in daytime and low-light conditions. The system has improved recognition of an oncoming vehicle of pedestrian when turning left at junctions (for left-hand-drive markets), and may activate PCS functions if required. Additional PCS functions including emergency steering assist, which aids in steering the vehicle within its lane when cued by the driver.

The IS also features dynamic radar cruise control (DRCC) that can be activated above 48 km/h, and is designed to maintain distance between itself and another vehicle down to 0 km/h, and can resume driving after it has come to a stop. The system also allows for smooth overtaking of slower vehicles, says Lexus; this is done by the driver engaging the turn signal, and once the overtake is complete, the IS will continue accelerating back to its preset speed.

Additionally, the LSS+ 2.5 suite includes lane departure warning, lane keeping assist by following lane markings or a vehicle ahead, intelligent high beam, road sign assist, blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert.

Inside, the 2021 IS features a new 10.3 inch touchscreen multimedia system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Amazon Alexa integration. Mark Levinson continues to be supplier of the highest available specification for a Lexus model, where the Premium Surround Sound Audio System now comprises 17 speakers driven by a new amplifier delivering 1,800 watts in 7.1 surround sound configuration.

The 2021 Lexus IS is slated to go on sale in North America later in the Northern Hemisphere autumn of this year, and will go on sale in approximately 40 countries globally, including Japan and other countries in Asia.